Rotary and Salem 9/11 Remembrance

September 26, 2014

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

It might have happened 13 years ago, but the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, can be recalled by most in seconds.

However, most high school seniors were only five at the time of the attacks, and may have little to no memory of the tragedy that shook the nation.

Working to keep the memory alive of the thousands of first responders, citizens, and passengers killed on that day, the Greater Salem Rotary club hosts a remembrance ceremony each year.

Spike Cutolo is a retired New York City detective who lived and worked in Brooklyn.  Her first day of a week-long vacation was September 11, 2001, a day when she would typically be working in the city.

Because she was on vacation and electronic communications was not as readily available as today, Cutolo didn’t know the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane until she was called by her friend to watch the news.

Cutolo decided to try and head into the city, which was a challenge since the roads were shut down.

“I could not get into the city at the moment that was occurring,” she said, noting the lack of a police vehicle.

But at 2 a.m., Cutolo arrived on scene to see a 10-block area devastated by the towers’ collapse.

“You felt it; you felt you’ve been defeated,” she said.  “We did work on that pile.”

Working with emergency responders, Cutolo searched through buildings and debris for signs of life.

“It wasn’t just those two towers,” she said.  “It was a 10-block radius crime scene.”

Cutolo recounted entering a boardroom in one building where a 25-foot-long by 4-foot-wide steel beam had crashed through a window and impaled a conference chair at the head of the table.

In 2007, Cutolo retired from the force and moved to Andover, New Hampshire, the next year.

“People of New Hampshire are very, very special,” she said.  “To me, New Hampshire is one big community.”

For Cutolo, the biggest change in moving north was the respect by locals, which she said is the opposite of what police officers receive in Brooklyn.

“It does need to be remembered,” she said.  “You can’t let that story grow old.”

She thanked Rotarians for continuing to host memorial services.  “To keep that memory alive means a lot to people like myself.”

Cutolo cited the recent installation of a 9/11 Memorial in Hudson, and said she was at the opening ceremony.

“That’s when I really, really, really felt at home,” she said.  “That memorial means a lot to me.  You couldn’t have asked for something more perfect.”

The Salem Fire Department also hosted their annual memorial, with Fire Chief Kevin Breen and Fire Marshal Jeff Emanuelson speaking about the tragic day.

“Today we stand together to remember all those who were lost,” they said in front of central fire station.